New Year’s Resolutions

Envision your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want to have that?

While virtually everyone aspires to improved health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We tend to set resolutions that are too difficult or too complicated—all in the name of getting rapid, extreme results.

But instead of trying for the rapid fix, the new year is the opportunity to institute lifestyle adjustments that are simple and easy to maintain—so that with time they become habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimum health.

The following are five straightforward resolutions you can put into practice right now for a healthy 2016.

1. Develop a new health outlook

It’s a common story: you start the latest fad diet and you’re feeling really great. Then, a couple of weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to go to. You arrive resolved to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Giving up in this fashion is a sign of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. Rather than quiting when you cheat on your diet, view your present level of health as sitting someplace along a continuum. Every decision you make moves you closer to one end (good health) or the other end (poor health).

The cake and ice cream moved you to the wrong end of the continuum, but that doesn’t indicate that you have to advance in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s fine to have that piece of cake on occasion, providing the greater part of your decisions move you in the right direction.

Implementing healthy habits requires a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What matters is your reaction, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions going forward.

2. Establish a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets virtually never work. The reality is that they are not sustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll very likely just regain the pounds.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some kind. No sugar, no fats, only 1,000 calories a day. It’s as if I recommended that you’d be more productive on the job if you didn’t check your email for a month. In the course of that month, you would probably get a lot more work accomplished.

But what would happen at the close of the month? You’d dedicate the majority of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the productivity you had gained.

The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals often gain more weight back than they lose after the conclusion of a short-term fad diet.

So what’s the remedy?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s OK to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger every now and then. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. So long as the majority of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

If you want to write a novel, and you force yourself to write the whole thing in one sitting, you’ll never make it to the end. However, if you commit to writing one page per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone knows they should be working out. The issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mindset. You purchase a gym membership and promise to devote to 7 days a week, three hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, cancel your membership, and never go back.

All or nothing. You’re focusing on the days you skip going to the gym when you should be focused on the times you do go to the gym. Each gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum toward good health.

You can additionally incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairs in the place of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, complete some pushups on your lunch break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Limit stress

There are primarily three ways to cope with stress:

  1. Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
  2. Reframe the stress into something positive
  3. Participate in relaxing activities more often

This will be different for everyone, but here’s an example of a resolution making use of all three strategies.

Eliminate – certain activities and responsibilities produce more stress relative to the benefits gained. If you discover, for instance, that you consume most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status produces little benefit, you might think about ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet thrilling for another? As an example, some people dread public speaking while others love it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your feelings of anxiety into positive energy you can use to subdue your fears.

Relax – What do you love doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whichever it is, find ways to open your schedule to do more of it and the stress will melt away.

5. Schedule routine hearing tests

And finally, think about scheduling a hearing test this year. While this may seem insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some amount of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.

Hearing loss is connected to multiple significant medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the persistent struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

Enhancing your hearing is an excellent way to minimize stress, strengthen personal relationships, and improve your all-around health and well-being.